Military police at Australia’s detention centre in Afghanistan were pressured to make prisoners more “pliable” by gagging them, depriving them of sleep and denying them exercise.Sources with first-hand knowledge of the detention centre at Tarin Kowt have said that senior officers from Australia’s special forces, as well as the “force exploitation team” – defence intelligence – and the mentoring taskforce, pressed the detention management team to “condition” suspected insurgents before interrogation.A source said the pressure was “strongly resisted” by the detention management team and the gagging and other techniques were not carried out. The account by multiple sources is among a number of claims that contrast with assurances this week from Defence Minister Stephen Smith that Australia “approaches its responsibility for treating detainees with dignity and respect with the utmost seriousness”.
A young male detainee who was deaf mute and possibly intellectually disabled was held in the centre because of pressure from the Special Operations Task Group, despite concerns from medical staff that he was not fit to be detained. A senior Afghan intelligence officer, a Colonel Hanif, complained vigorously that detainees were being transferred from Australian to Afghan custody on scant evidence that they were insurgents. The Defence Force denied a teenage boy access to his dying father, a suspected insurgent who had been shot in a battle with Australians. The boy was allegedly turned over to US interrogators, though the ADF denies this.
The claims relate to 2010 and 2011, after Australia took responsibility for managing detainees in Oruzgan province from the withdrawn Dutch troops…..But Fairfax Media has been told that in the first year Australia was running the detention system, tensions flared between the military police who managed the detainees and the forces who captured and interrogated them. One source said: “We had two very conflicting sets of guidelines: one was to treat them humanely but the other was the pressure from the SOTG [Australian Special Operations Task Group]*** and intelligence guys who wanted us to condition them in such a way as to make them more pliable … so their state of mind was conducive to interrogation. “They wanted us to gag and hood the detainees to stop them from talking to each other.
Excerpt, David Wroe, Deborah Snow,Military police pressured to make prisoners more ‘pliable’, Sydney Morning Herald, May 18, 2013
***Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) The Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) is deployed to Southern Afghanistan to conduct population-centric, security and counter-network operations. At around 300 personnel, the SOTG is one of the largest, most potent Special Forces units in Afghanistan. The SOTG is primarily based in Multi-National Base Tarin Kot but has command and liaison elements in Kandahar and Kabul. It consists of approximately 300 personnel from the 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments, the Special Air Service Regiment, the Special Operations Engineer Regiment, the Special Operations Logistic Squadron, and various other services, units and commands around Australia. The SOTG trains, mentors and partners with Afghan National Police officers from the Uruzgan Provincial Response Company (PRC) and other branches of the Afghan National Security Forces, in order to build their capacity and capability to establish and maintain security and stability in the region.SOTG operations are Afghan Police led in order to build confidence in the ANSF and improve the connection between the local people and the Afghan Government. The Task Group also works closely with the co-located CT-U providing Special Forces support to operations in Uruzgan province.